Some films stay with you forever and ever and ever.
Some films stay with you
forever and ever and ever. So reads the cleverly referential
tagline for Room 237, a whistle-stop
tour of nine conspiracy theories surrounding Stanley Kubrick’s horror masterpiece, The Shining. Many
films have been pored over in search of hidden meanings but apparently none
more so than Kubrick’s ode to terror, with interpretations ranging from the
bizarre (it’s really about the moon landings!) to the almost believable.
Documentary filmmaker and horror fanatic Rodney Ascher has assembled a film that essentially consists of
audio interviews accompanied by visuals from Kubrick’s films with the
occasional filler footage, which is largely unimaginative and borderline
amateurish. This is kept to a
minimum however and Kubrick’s peerless imagery is allowed to speak for itself,
making Room 237, more than anything else, a reminder of how breathtaking
Kubrick’s cinematography is.
The soundtrack is an array of tributes to 1970s horror music, which
works for the film but isn’t quite on topic, as The Shining featured an
innovative mix of contemporary classical music and Wendy Carlos’
dread-inspiring electronic compositions.
Few of the interviewees are notable, all apparently experts in very
obscure fields (hermetic and alchemical traditions for example), the exception
being ABC news correspondent Bill
Blakemore, one of the few contributors with anything bordering on plausible
The so-called ‘hidden meanings’ are mostly absurd to the point of
being comical. Ascher presents his
subject matter with tongue-in-cheek, poker-faced gravity, helping make the film
palatable to a wider audience as a humourous insight into the minds of
conspiracy theorists. One theory
stands out as being plausible however as The Shining is, to an extent, a
metaphorical allegory of the genocide of the Native Americans. Throwing a little truth into the mix of
madness makes the audience sensitive to the possibility that there might be
shreds of truth in the other explorations, helping to keep you engaged and
open-minded with the thought that Room 237 might not just be a kaleidoscope of
Diehard film buffs and Kubrick devotees will get the most out of the
film, as it directly appeals to the obsessive mindset of the kind of cineaste
who likes nothing more than to slip film quotes into conversation or to tell
you that in Casablanca nobody ever
actually says “Play it again, Sam”.
The market for this film isn’t quite that limited however, as conspiracy
theories are brain food for some and outlandish entertainment for others. Ascher’s film cleverly taps both these
points of view, making it an amusing curiosity for all. Even if you can’t swallow the ideas
presented there is still fun to be had.
Now why not read this review backwards to find out what it was really about.